Tag Archives: family

Open Letter to My Daughter-In-Law

My son and his wife are expecting their first baby the first week of August. This is a letter I read to my daughter-in-law at her recent baby shower.

Dear Sarah,

I’m so excited for you to experience the overwhelming feelings of love and joy that come the first time you cradle your newborn baby in your arms. Mommy love is a powerful thing, all-consuming really, and you will be surprised at the strength of your new-found Mama Bear emotions.

I have no doubt that you will be able to look baby Hunter straight in the eye and avow in all truthfulness, “I will do anything for you.” And you will mean it. Take the bullet? Step in front of a speeding car? Move mountains? No problem. You will stand ready to fight to the death anyone or anything that could bring him harm. But in reality, it is unlikely that you will ever be called to act upon such grand declarations of maternal love. Instead, what you will be asked to do for him is infinitely more difficult.

Your calling will be to love your baby boy like Jesus loves him. And that will entail a million little self-sacrifices, dying again and again to yourself over the course of the rest of your life.

1 Corinthians chapter 13 gives us a picture of what this kind of love looks like.

Love is patient.
Love is kind.
Love does not envy or boast.
It is not arrogant.
It is not rude.
It does not insist on its own way.
It is not irritable or resentful…
It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.

Sarah, you are soon to embark on a grand adventure. You will discover that you are stronger than you ever dared think, physically, emotionally and spiritually. You will develop amazing biceps, acquire lightning-fast reflexes, and hone your ability to do fifty things at once. You will learn to swallow your words, bite your lip, and smile when all you really want to do is lie down and take a nap. You will cultivate the aptitude to laugh at spit-up on your new outfit, wipe runny noses with the inside of your shirt, and become quite adept at changing your baby’s diaper in the cramped back seat of a car. You will also grow in trusting the Lord for the wisdom and help you need to raise your little charge. But just as certain, dear Sarah, motherhood will expose in you weaknesses that you would never have believed possible.

There will come a day when you will respond to your beloved baby with impatience. Believe it or not, you have the capacity to be unkind to him. You will be tempted to envy that other mother who always seems to have it all together (she doesn’t) and on your good days make the prideful assumption that you have it all together. You may rudely interrupt your boy in the middle of a sentence to answer a text or sneak a peek at the book you are trying to read, and you will insist on your own way, not because it is best for him, but more convenient for you.

As the years pass, your sweet boy will find creative ways to irritate you. There will even be times you resent the time and energy it takes to train up a child. There will be moments when the weight of your responsibilities will seem unbearable and any hope of relief, dim. You will question your abilities as a mother and wonder if motherhood is beyond your capacity to endure. And even if you are able to keep all of these wrong responses in check outwardly, your heart will give you away. You will know and the Lord will know. So in light of the magnitude of the task set before us, what are we as mothers to do?

I hope you can see the truth and necessity of what I am about to say:

Sarah, you need Jesus!

Look to the One whose love is perfect in its effect and infinite in scope and run to Him as fast as you can and as often as you can. Run to Him with a grateful heart when things go well and run to Him with a humble heart when things go sideways. And most importantly, run to Him when you fall and be assured that your brokenness is where the Gospel of Christ will prove itself in your life over and over again. It is in the midst of your failures that God’s Grace is most precious and His love most clearly seen.

Jesus is the flawless and most excellent representation of what true love is as described in 1 Corinthians. Jesus will be patient with you. Jesus will be kind. You are His precious daughter and He awaits you with open arms, never with hostility or irritation. Go to Him to receive forgiveness and love and you will see your love for Hunter become a reflection and overflowing of Christ’s love for you.

It’s true that little Hunter will get the best and worst of you and you will get the best and worst of him. Motherhood will bring your richest and most treasured moments and a few you would rather forget. You will laugh and you will cry and work harder than you ever thought possible. But somehow, our good God will take your feeble attempts at motherhood and graciously and patiently teach you what it means to love your child.

Look around you, Sarah. All of these ladies, many of them mothers themselves, love you and are willing to help and pray for you. But remember one thing, God chose you to be Hunter’s mommy and for him to be your son. And, he’s given you the blessing of a strong husband who loves you and is your partner in all of this. This paradigm of family is where you and Josh (and soon little Hunter) will grow in your understanding of how utterly and profoundly you need God’s mercy, wisdom and strength. And believe it, God is faithful who has called you into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

You will be a wonderful mother, Sarah! I can’t tell you how thrilled Opa and I are to see all that the Lord has planned for you and your growing family. My prayer is that you will experience no greater joy in life than to hear that your children are walking in the truth.

With much love,

(aka Hunter’s Oma)


A Little Bit of Heaven


My fourteen-month-old grandson will learn that there are times when play must be set aside for duty. In fact, my ordinary adult concerns usually trump his childish inclination to toss a ball again and again and yet once again or sit outside on the curb to practice our meow sounds and pet the neighbor’s cat.

But, playtime is not a waste of my time nor his. No, these welcome respites from the business of everyday responsibilities are (at least part of) the building blocks of our future relationship. I can tell my grandson that I love him and that I am interested in him, but in the mind of a toddler, actions do speak louder than mere words.

Recently, during one of our playtimes together, I was overcome by the most extraordinary sensation. I felt as if time stood still or was suspended somehow. Of course as soon as I realized what was happening, the moment slipped away. Perhaps my attention was so focused on what we were doing that I became unaware, even if just for a few seconds, of the passage of time.

Thinking about it later, it came to me that my grandson isn’t quite aware yet of how tangled up we are in the constraints of time. He isn’t worried about what comes next or how many minutes have ticked by. He has nothing planned and no to-do list. It’s as if he has all the time in the world…

I long for Heaven where I am positive we won’t experience time in the same way we do here on earth. After all, we will have all of eternity!  If we are freed from the necessity of the clock, imagine the joy of spending an infinitude of moments in the company of fellow saints. Think of the timelessness of our happily-ever-after in the glorious presence of Christ our Lord! What an amazing Inheritance we have in the Gospel!

Could it be that playtime with my grandson is a foretaste of what’s to come? A glimpse of eternity where the urgency of our busy schedules is no more? At the very least, these moments are a gracious gift to this grandmother–a little bit of Heaven on earth.

Your sun shall no more go down, nor your moon withdraw itself; for the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your days of mourning shall be ended.
Isaiah 60:19

By His Grace and for the Gospel,
Terrie van Baarsel

Remembering Mom

My mother left this world to be with Jesus on March 18, 2013. With Mother’s Day fast approaching, I find myself thinking of her and missing her more than I can express. So, in honor of Mother’s Day, I’m posting some excerpts from a piece I read at Mom’s memorial service in March. This post is much longer than most, please bear with me on that.


It’s when I lie down at night that the memories come in like a flood. The earliest memories of Christmas mornings when Mom was more excited to watch us open our gifts than we were. “Don’t open your presents until you wake us up first!” she’d say. She didn’t want to miss the delight on our faces. There are memories of playing hooky from school with Mom’s full approval. We would “make a day of it,” shopping at Kresgees and afterwards eating lunch at the local burger joint. Or, letting us stay home some Tuesdays to spend time with our grandparents when they came to visit. She called it a bad case of Nana and Pampa-itis. Mom, always there, always loving, always sticking up for us, helping with school projects (more than likely last-minute and due the very next day), walking us to our girl scout meetings, wiping away our tears and making us laugh with her goofy sense of humor.

I think the most important thing mom taught me growing up was to be kind to others. She’d tell me, “Just think how you would feel if someone treated you that way.” She had a way of tenderizing our hearts and eliciting compassion for the plight of those less fortunate. Mom was our biggest fan and most loyal cheerleader. She encouraged us to do our best, to be thankful, to respect people and to love our family. I cannot think of one single moment in my life when I doubted Mom’s love for me. She loved me when I was most unlovable, and even at the height of my knuckleheadedness, Mom’s love was unconditional.

As an adult I continued to learn from Mom and came into a fuller realization of the sacrifices she made for her loved ones. She was an example in homemaking, in loving her husband and in putting others first. Mom somehow mastered the art of influencing us without being overbearing, the balance of sharing her life-experience without actually giving advice, and the feat of being involved in our lives without intruding. She welcomed our spouses into her heart fully and without wavering–no in-laws here! And, she was the quintessential grandma to her grandchildren. She told me once, “Terrie, you won’t believe it now, but you will love your grandchildren as much as you do your own kids.” (She was right, by the way.)

Graciously, God gave us many wonderful years with our Mother. Over the months before she died, Mom fought the fight of her life. She was so courageous, and true to who she was, I suspect that her bravado was more for her husband and family’s sake than for her own. But, I think it’s important to note that cancer had no victory over my mother. Her name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. She is absent from her body, but present with her Lord. Although her battle with disease was more than formidable, I am certain she see’s it now as a momentary and light affliction, nothing in comparison to the eternal weight of glory she is experiencing in heaven.

You see, Mom was loved by her husband, her kids, her grandkids, her family and her friends. But most importantly, she was beloved of God for the sake of His Son. My siblings and I had the privilege and honor of escorting our Mother into the waiting arms of Jesus. She left this world knowing she was loved and passed from death into life eternal.

It comforts me to know this is true. She is done fighting, done worrying, finished with carrying the pain and struggle of sickness. But how can this be? My mom is in Heaven at this very moment, enjoying what will be the grandest adventure above and beyond anything she could ever ask or imagine, not because she earned it, but because she was a sinner who needed a Savior (just like we all do) and cried out to Jesus for forgiveness of her sins. God graciously answered her prayer because whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. For it is by grace through faith Mom was granted so great a salvation, this was not her own doing nor by her own merit, but a gift from God. What good news this is! So think right now of the brightest and best enjoyment or the purest and lightest joy you can experience here on earth. Now, multiply that by an infinity of numbers and enlarge it by untold universes and you may get an idea of what Mom is basking in at this very moment and for an eternity of moments!

It’s been said that the degree to which you love someone is proportionate to the depth of grief you will experience when they are gone. And so we grieve. But not as those who are without hope! Very often I find myself speaking of Mom in the present tense, as if she were still alive. But, I do not correct myself because Mom is presently living in the glorious truth of God’s promises–all yes and amen in Christ Jesus! And she is with us here in a million different memories and a host of lasting joys; these a balm for our grief and a good and perfect gift coming down from the Father of Lights. It’s just like Mom to pass on to Glory before me. It will make it easier when my time comes because I know she’ll be waiting on the other side.

Where, oh death is your victory, and where, oh death is your sting?

By His Grace and for the Gospel,
Terrie van Baarsel

Some Thoughts

DSC_0655It’s difficult for me to string two thoughts together right now, let alone write them down. But, I’ll try.

Last summer, my mom was diagnosed with lung cancer. This turn of events brought about lots of traveling to and from my parents’ house (a five-hour drive to Northern California) for my siblings and me. We tried to help and encourage as best we could. Many, many prayers were expressed for her. Mom suffered through chemo, hospital stays, 2 strokes and anxiety attacks.

On February 13 mom was admitted to the hospital with trouble breathing. She was treated there for two weeks and then transferred to a skilled nursing facility for rehab. Our goal was for her to get strong enough so that she could come home to Dad. Instead, she became weaker and more sick.

On March 17 my dad and brother called to say that Mom had taken a turn for the worse and that my sister and I should probably make our way up north to see her. My sister, brother-in-law, my aunt and I arrived at the rehab facility about nine o’clock that evening. We spent the next several hours sitting with Mom, praying for her, stroking her head and telling her how much she was loved. At about three that next morning, March 18, we escorted our Mom into the loving arms of her Savior. I have no doubt Jesus was waiting for her on the other side.

Here are some things I am thankful for:

Up until the last few days, Mom was not in pain.
I do not work so I was free to spend time with Mom and Dad over the last few months.
My Dad was able to take care of her. He cooked, cleaned, grocery shopped and gave Mom her meds. Amazing man.
We were able to have her with us at Thanksgiving (the biggest holiday of the year for our family).
My sister, brother and I were able to help and serve Mom while she was sick.
Mom had many amazing doctors and nurses who showed her mercy and kindness.
I have become much more empathetic toward people who have gone through similar circumstances.
Mom was surrounded by loved ones when she passed away. She did not die alone.
God has shown Himself faithful in a million different ways.
God’s Word is true.
My mom is with Jesus and I will see her again someday.
Mom was dearly loved by so many who have expressed to me what she meant to them.

There’s so much to think through and process regarding my  mom’s illness and passing. One thing I know to be true, I need an eternal perspective to see all of this correctly. I am leaning heavily on the Everlasting Arms. God is faithful, and I know that my Redeemer lives.

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His Saints. Psalm 116:15

By His Grace and for the Gospel,
Terrie van Baarsel


And from His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.  John 1:16

Thanksgiving Turkey

Thanksgiving Turkey (Photo credit: tengrrl)

I love Thanksgiving.

Of course, we have a million reasons to thank God every single day. But, to have a day specifically set aside to do so is a great blessing.

For our family, Thanksgiving is the pinnacle of our family gatherings throughout the year. It is a day rich in tradition, a part of the legacy left to us by our grandparents and parents that we are handing down to our children and now (in some cases), their children. It is a time we set aside to eat, play, fellowship, and worship the Lord together.

All of us try each year to attend, but as our families have grown there are times when that’s not possible. (The in-laws want time with their family members, too. Understandable!) But this year is different.

As many of you know, my mom was diagnosed with small-cell lung cancer last summer. This turn of events has intensified our resolve to spend our holiday as one, big family. And so, this Thanksgiving we will all be together. All 38 or so of us!

There have been some very low points in this journey with Mom. And make no mistake, this trial is by no means over. But, amazingly, we approach this Thanksgiving with, well, thanksgiving!

While it is true that our trials test us, throughout this trial I think that God has given us the honor of testing Him. The result? Our family has experienced first-hand the faithfulness of our Heavenly Father. Again and again He has proven Himself to us. We have learned that His Word is sure, His character is true and His promises are real. The Lord has done a great work in our hearts and minds. We have walked through the crucible together and stand ready to raise our hands and our voices this Thanksgiving and shout, “Hallelujah! God is good and we THANK HIM!”

I stand amazed at what the Lord has so freely given us even in the midst of a cancer diagnosis for our mother. What mercy! What hope! What love! What grace! How could we ever withhold our deepest thanks to such a God as this!

Most importantly, when I think of what I have been given by virtue of the Gospel compared to what I deserve, my only rational response is a heartfelt giving of thanks to the Lord.

Praying all of you know His goodness this Thanksgiving.

By His Grace and for the Gospel,
Terrie van Baarsel

Pleasures Pure

by Terrie van Baarsel


Rain-1686 (Photo credit: pomranka)

I want to go where hearts are beating
Where time is short and life is fleeting
Where laughter dares and cheeks are ruddy
And children sing and boots are muddy
From delightful rousing romps through rain
That end in warmth of hearth again.

I long to rid my heart of worry
Take my time and never hurry
Stroll through orchards born of earth
Grown from seeds of truest mirth
Pluck ripe fruit and bite right in
And let sweet juice run down my chin.

I want to drink of love’s new wine
So deep and rich in taste, divine!
Then toast the hues of morning sun
And never being weary, run
‘Long winding paths through forest glades
‘Til shadows fall and sunlight fades.

Oh to dance in autumn leaves
Await the bite of winter’s freeze
And riding emerald springtime swells
Recall a child’s lost summer spells
Her mirrored dreams of salt and spray
Bright sea-kissed skies o’er holidays!

And yet, just to share a cup of tea
And gaze into the eyes of thee
Sing this moment’s carefree song
To trust ’tis here where I belong
Desiring naught but ties that bind
Secure and free at the same time.

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